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A cure for HIV infection and AIDS
Sep 10, 2001

Dear Dr. Aberg,

Is anyone optermistic that we will ever find a Cure for HIV infection and AIDS? Either by immobilizing HIV, Restoring the Human Immune System, Or eliminating all HIV and HIV infected cells out of the Human Body? I was told that we are almost 95 certain to have a Safe and Effective Vaccine. So any info would be grately appriciated.

Thanks very much for answering questions on here, you and all the other experts are truly changing peoples lives! Thank you!

Response from Dr. Aberg

This is a difficult question to answer. In medicine the two terms we do not like to use is "always" (or "absolutely") and "never". I do not believe we are close to eliminating the virus totally but each year we have made tremendous strides towards improving the quality of people's lives. On the other hand, many people are developing complications from the medicines they are taking. So, we still have a lot to learn.

Let's talk a little about the vaccine as there has been a lot in the news about the vaccine. I am going to write this in the simplest form I can so anyone reading this can hopefully understand. The vaccine most talked about is not to prevent HIV in people without HIV. It is to give to HIV negative people so if they do become infected, the vaccine will make the HIV infection less serious. In other words, the vaccine will decrease how infectious the HIV is and the amount of virus in the body would be less than if the person never received the vaccine. In this setting, people would live longer and potentially healthier with HIV.

Some experts have expressed concern over this. They are afraid if people receive the vaccine, that they will engage in more risky behavior because they feel they are protected against getting disease.

Another potential use for the vaccine is to give it to people already infected with HIV. The thought behind this is that maybe the person's own immune system will react to the vaccine in a positive way and kill off more of the HIV in their body.

So, I like to think of myself as an optimist because I do believe we are learning more about how HIV infects our cells and I do believe we will have a better understanding in the next few years. I become frustrated because it is difficult to convince people to practice safe sex or use needle exchanges. Everyone believes it can never happen to them. HIV is always somebody else's problem. But reality is that HIV is everyone's problem and we all need to work together to stop the spread of the disease. I hear both sides of the story everyday. On one hand it is the person who is HIV positive that should inform the new partner and take precautions. On the other hand, it is the HIV negative person's responsibility to assume everyone else is infected and to protect themselves. Both sides are correct and we should all take responsibility for doing our part in reducing transmission of HIV.



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